Alright so I’ve had several book releases in the past few weeks which I hope you have or will pick up. As of right now I have a full dozen books available but am I successful or a success or not? Let’s examine that…
Honestly, things in my little writer world have been moving at a pretty fast past lately. In the last month I’ve had 3 new anthologies released and one Special Edition Magazine – 100 Word Horrors: Part 2 from KJK Publishing, Editor’s Picks from HorrorAddicts, Blood From A Tombstone (which I also co-edited) from Tombstone Stories Publishing and Deep Fried Horror: March 2019 Edition from Deadman’s Tome. I am very proud and excited about each of these releases but I’m not done yet! On April 15th Flash Fiction Addiction from Zombie Pirate Publishing will be released (pre-Orders for Kindle are available now, paperbacks on Launch Day)! Also since I’m making more money now at the daywalker job I’ve begun purchasing my own books that I didn’t have along with starting a collection of books from my indie author friends because, frankly, Stephen King and Clive Barker don’t need my money but my author friends appreciate every single sale.
The other day I posted a pic on Facebook of me with my latest round of book purchases which received plenty of much appreciated “likes” and comments. One of those comments from an editor, writer and friend stated that she knew I would be a success the first time she read my work. At first seeing those kind words simply made me smile knowing that someone I respect enjoys what I do but then I got to thinking about that word… “success.” I’m not attempting to be self-deprecating here, I believe in what I do and that I’m a good writer or I would give it up and do something else. The reason it got me thinking is that I don’t think of myself as being a “success” or successful but then I started thinking, well why do I feel that way? So this little post is about that, read on or don’t you have free will so exercise it.
Success can mean many different things depending on the things your parents instilled in you or you had instilled deep in your brain through a variety of other sources like school, church or even TV. Perhaps we all view success a little differently but I’ll be speaking in some generalities here that I think we can all agree on to one extent or another. I can’t speak for people in countries other than the US though, for the most part, I think what I’m about to say is somewhat universal. We’re all taught and shown practically from birth what is and what is not a successful life. If I asked 100 different people what success looks like, I’d get various answers from a nice house or even mansion to a fancy car and other similar things, basically a myriad of mostly material possessions. But it boils down to one thing really… Money.
We determine whether someone is successful or not based on the amount of money they appear to have or don’t have. I try not to do that but I, as well as anyone else, have to fight against pretty much everything I have been taught and shown to look beyond that simple money judgment. I could write an entire book just on my thoughts about money and how utterly fucking useless it is but our entire society is built upon it so it’s impossible to completely escape money being a consideration in this discussion. It makes me sad to know that some people’s entire identity is wrapped in dollar bills, they can’t see anything else. So when thinking about the question “Am I a success?” through the filter of money as the sole determinant then no, no I am not successful in the slightest. Holding money up as the sole indicator of success as an artist is a path to despair and probably worse. Writing, or any art, is not a quick path to riches 99.999999999999999% of the time unless maybe you know Oprah personally. So as an artist you need to remove money from the success equation but what does that leave?
From the day I began writing, success of any kind wasn’t even a consideration. I began because I had an idea and I wanted to see if, for the first time in my life, I could stay focused on a story from start to finish. And by that I mean actually finish a story without rushing it just to be done. That may sound silly but when I was younger I couldn’t focus long enough to actually complete a story. I don’t have ADHD or anything but I definitely lacked focus when I was younger, my mind would wander or I’d let life take over so I started things sometimes but never finished them. Honestly, I usually never even started at all. Anyway, when I did finally begin I didn’t do it because I thought I could be the next Stephen King or something, I simply wanted to see if I could. That first story turned out to be a not so short story, in fact it is not a short story at all but a novella. That novella eventually, after several edits and a couple of title changes, became my first solo book, Essence Asunder, which was released almost a year ago now.
I felt like a success when I completed that first story simply due to the fact that I finished it. It was coherent and actually not too damn bad if I don’t say so myself. However, it left me with the question of “Okay, now what?” I answered myself pretty quickly. A spark had been lit, I had an insatiable desire to create. I still had not a single clue what the hell to do or how to go about getting my work in front of readers but I knew I wanted to keep doing it. So I wrote another story and another and so on up to today. However, after writing a few and letting a select few people read them I started to look around at getting some work out in the public eye. Through an internet friend I was introduced to someone running a horror website looking for some short stories to highlight. I sent in my story, Harvester of Sorrow, then crossed my fingers that he wouldn’t tell me to piss off and stop writing. He ended up liking it but due to it not being all that short he put it up in 2 parts. I would mention him and the website here but I honestly can’t remember his name and the website was dissolved quite a long time ago. However, that was my start, I had put a story out into the public eye and no one seemed to hate it.
Meanwhile, I kept writing. A small indie publisher reached out to me about contributing a story for an anthology. This was the first time I had been requested to write something and it would be the first story I actually had published. Sadly or fortunately, the story I submitted was rejected, my first of many rejections. I kept writing but when it came to getting published and who to publish with I really didn’t have the slightest fucking clue which led to several rejections but I kept writing. My idea of putting together a collection of my own short stories was my goal. It took me some time but eventually I was finished. Then came the hard part, where the fuck do I send the manuscript? I spent a few days looking around until I had a list of about ten or so publishers to try and a few more to try after that if those didn’t pan out. Of course, all I got for weeks which turned into months was dead silence. Not a “Thank you for your manuscript. We’ll get back to by X date.” from any of these potential publishers. Then through a friend I thought I found someone interested. He talked a good game about needing to split what I had into a couple of volumes and possibly a multiple book deal. I was about as excited as I’d ever been. Then I sent him my manuscript aaaannnndddd crickets. After a couple weeks I reached out to ask what he thought. Devastation awaited. Very nicely he told me that I was a good writer…. But. The dreaded “BUT!” He explained that my writing style wasn’t what he generally published, that he looked for horror with some humor infused into it in a Hammer Horror style. Then he continued on to say that while he thought I was a very good writer he believed I’d probably have a difficult time finding anyone to publish my work due to the content. I was crushed. That’s like telling a chef you like his food but you don’t think anyone else will.
After that I was depressed, angry and a million other emotions but I kept writing. I hadn’t heard from any of the publishers I had sent my manuscript to except one, I think, who rejected it. Then by complete chance one day I stumbled upon a small indie press seeking submissions. Not wanting to waste my time or the publisher’s time I sent an inquiry explaining what I had along with a list of each story, a short description of each and their word counts. That publisher was Dark Chapter Press and that’s how I made the acquaintance of Jack Rollins. Jack was nice enough to explain that few if any publisher were going to publish an entire collection (especially one as long as mine) from an unknown author like myself. It made complete sense when someone actually spells it out for you. He went on to tell me that maybe we could do a collection down the road but the word length on one of my tales would fit nicely into something he was putting together and asked me to send him that one to take a look at. That story was Hell Awaits which did get accepted for DCP’s anthology, Kill For A Copy. Not only was it my first story to be published but it was put in as the closing story (one of the best spots in an anthology) and it opened a relationship for me with DCP that continued for a couple of years.
I learned a ton from Jack and by working with DCP, things I’ve found absolutely invaluable. It also opened me up to forging relationships with my fellow writers in that anthology something I try to do with every new one I’m involved in. Networking with fellow horror authors has been absolutely invaluable because we tell each other about good publishers to work with but also about the ones to avoid. We share ideas, information, opportunities and all sorts of things so getting in that first anthology was the best thing that could have happened and I’m very proud to know Jack Rollins and to have been involved with Dark Chapter Press. It opened many doors for me which continue to open to this day. That was my first small “success” but I also wanted to branch out.
We’ve all heard the old saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Great saying but sometimes it can be difficult to find some more baskets. I wanted to branch out but I also had some personal issues to deal with which delayed the writing career along with DCP going on a bit of a hiatus because life happens no matter what we do. Eventually I targeted a couple other publishers I definitely wanted to work with and set about getting them to notice me. One of those was Hellbound Books who have gone on to publish 3 of my shorts stories, my novella,Essence Asunder and another accepted for The Devil’s Hourwhich is coming soon. Another was Stitched Smile Publications who I have one anthology coming out with soon, Tenebrous, and a more which I'll get to in a little further down. I’ve also had work published with Tell-Tale Publishing, HorrorAddicts and Deadman’s Tome and will soon have work published by Zombie Pirate Publishing and Death’s Head Press. So does all this make me a success? I mean, I’ve made like a whole fifty dollars or so thus far!
So in terms of what society normally considers “success” or “successful” I’d have to admit that no, I’m not a success. However, throw out that “norm” and I am extraordinarily successful. I never really felt it at all until about a year ago. I spent the first three months of 2018 editing, rewriting and adding on to my manuscript for Piece It All Back Together with the goal of making my debut novel something I could truly be proud of. I had written the first draft quickly at the end of 2015 to be able to enter a contest through Dark Chapter Press. When I say “quickly” I mean insanely fast. I wrote the original, approximately 60K word, manuscript in about 12 days ending with an insane 24 hour writing session culminating in the final 20K words. I ended up winning the contest but I knew two things, the novel needed plenty of work and I wasn’t really ready, skill wise, to do that work. So I put it on the shelf until I felt I was ready and had the time. That turned out to be almost two years later but had I done it any sooner I would not be satisfied with it. How does that relate to the success topic today, you ask? Well read on MacDuff!
Finally after working non-stop for three months I had a novel I was satisfied with. I had added a whole new sub-plot, numerous characters and, in the end, about 80K words for a final manuscript at just under 140k words. For you non-writers, that’s about 420 pages as a Word document which means somewhere in the neighborhood of 650-ish pages in print or in other words what I would consider a real handful. I was proud of what I had done, the story was part mystery, part thriller and a whole heap of stomach turning horror. When I say stomach turning I mean that I wrote one part that I really hope makes someone throw up when they read it but it gets worse right after that just to make sure! Anyway, before I began the revisions I had a publisher offer to publish it sight unseen. That’s a pretty good feeling but I reached out to my old friend Jack to give DCP the first opportunity. However, while I was doing the revisions I received a second offer! No one but a couple of folks at DCP had ever read the first quickly slapped together manuscript and I basically had two publishers ready to duke it out over the right to publish it when neither had seen a word to know if it was even worth wiping their butt with! Right then is when I felt like a success. Sure I wasn’t being offered some million dollar multi-book deal but I had found not just one but two publishers with so much faith in my work that they were willing to publish a book from me without even a synopsis of what the book was about! So, in the end, Jack said DCP wasn’t able to do it and due to the offers I received being more or less identical I went with the publisher who had gotten to me first. I thought that was only fair with everything else being equal, first come first served as they say.
Hopefully coming this Fall or possibly sooner!!!
That publisher is Stitched Smile Publications and its lovely owner Lisa Vazquez! The editing has been going slow because I just don’t have the time to work on it that I wish I had. The truth is with all the projects I’ve been asked to do in the last year, plus the pay-the-bills job I have almost no time to do the editing which I’m very slow at in the first place. Although don’t fret I am nearly finished and then there should only be a few minor tweaks left. I’m trying to burn the midnight oil so I can have my part finished allowing Stitched Smile to have the novel out this fall or even earlier. I promise I’m in the home stretch and will be finished soon. So whether you consider me a success or not is completely up to you but I am a success to my mind even if the fortune and fame have yet to come, if they ever do. If you write or draw or create in any fashion then only you can decide what success means to you. If I were younger my idea of success would most certainly be different but I’m not young anymore and I’ve tried to take the long view from the very beginning. My advice for any artist is that you do the same. Big time success of fame and fortune has as much to do with hard work as it does with luck. It’s getting your work in front of the right eyes at the right time, the problem is you never know what the right eyes or right time are. Stick with it… Stay Positive & Make. Good. ART.